Out of the 207 teams listed in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, it must have been a little bit disconcerting for fans of Pakistani football to see their team in the bottom 30. But that is precisely what happened in April, when they fell to 177th; their lowest place in the Ranking since October 2007. However, some good results in qualifying for the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup have helped the Greenshirts rise to 167th - and become the month's third best mover in the process.
Pakistan impressed in their opening two qualifying matches in Sri Lanka last month, drawing 1-1 with Chinese Taipei before firing six goals without reply past Brunei Darussalam. But their good work was undermined by a disappointing 2-2 draw with hosts Sri Lanka in their final match, a result which saw them concede Group D's qualifying spot to the South Asian islanders.
It was a case of history repeating itself for Pakistan, as they finished in second place behind Sri Lanka at the same event two years ago. But despite the near miss, their results had some reward, as they resulted in a ten place climb to 167th in this month's FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
The man currently at the helm of Pakistan is George Kottan, an Austrian who was appointed in February, just six weeks before the tournament took place. Having spent the past eight years with a handful of club and international teams in south Asia, including Bangladesh, who he guided to a surprise win at the 2003 SAFF Championship, it is hoped that Kottan will take Pakistan to a higher level.
The Austrian wasted no time in calling British-based midfielders Adnan Ahmed and Atif Bashir to his squad for April's qualifiers. Indeed, his decision paid-off in the opening game, as it was Ahmed who cancelled out Han Chang's early goal in the match against Chinese Taipei. The Tranmere Rovers player was also on target in the next match against Brunei Darussalam, netting his side's sixth goal of the game.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, however, the midfield combination of Ahmed and Bashir were powerless to stop Sri Lanka from scoring a late equaliser in their final match.
Kottan and his charges must now go back to the drawing board in the hope that he can inspire the Greenshirts to emulate Pakistan's achievements of the 1960s, when they boasted a competitive side who were capable of causing upsets against some of Asia's big teams.
The recent years have seen the Pakistan FA going to great lengths to revive their footballing fortunes, with their infrastructure largely improved with aid from FIFA's Goal Project and a new 14-team Pakistan Premier League established in 2004.